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ARIANA OPORTA, BSc (President)

Ariana grew up with sea turtles and their conservation in Gandoca and is the first community member to have earned a degree in marine biology. She received a scholarship to study at the Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica where she graduated with her Bachelor in 2013.  Ariana is now working on a thesis for her Licenciatura. She studies the effects of the invasive lionfish populations on the local coral reefs in Costa Rica’s Caribbean. She has been collaborating with the fisheries community of Manzanillo to collect data and is helping to implement measures to eradicate the existing lionfish populations. Ariana has further been involved for many years with the Corridor Biologico Talamanca where she helped with community outreach, and since 2014 she is using her contacts and acquired skills to lead COASTS. Her main objective is to conserve the sea turtle populations in the Gandoca-Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge.

Chris among plastic from sea turtle stom

CHRISTINE FIGGENER, PhD (Vice-President & Scietific Director)

Christine is originally from Germany but has been a Gandoca community member for many years. She started working in sea turtle research and conservation in Costa Rica in 2007 and has led numerous projects over the years. In particular, she has been studying and protecting different populations of leatherback, green, hawksbill, and olive ridley turtles on the Pacific and Caribbean coasts. Christine holds a Master’s degree in biology from the University of Würzburg in Germany and a PhD in marine biology from Texas A&M University in the USA. Christine was recently named a Next Generation Leader by TIME magazine for her advocacy work concerning ocean plastic pollution. Within COASTS, she is in charge of our projects' scientific and conservation focus. Her goal is to protect the local sea turtle populations and gather new knowledge that will make their protection more efficient. At the same time, she is interested in generating a cultural shift among the local stakeholders away from the exploitive use of sea turtles and their products by involving and educating the next generation. Also check out her personal website



Andrey is another Gandoqueño and has worked in sea turtle conservation since he was a teenager. Over the years he has led different project on the Caribbean and Pacific coast and has by now accumulated almost two decades of experience in applied sea turtle research and conservation techniques. His focus these days is the quality control and improvement of existing conservation techniques (e.g., he developed a sand-cleaning-technique for a hatchery on a beach with low hatching success that raised the success by over 50%). Due to his ample experience, he now often consults for other projects on implemented conservation measures and trains their staff members. 



Yuri also grew up in Gandoca and has been heavily involved in community development since a young age. Unsurprisingly, she first chose to study social work before switching over to a career as an English teacher. Yuri’s main interest is furthering the development of small communities by creating economic opportunities through ecotourism, capacity building, and conservation of local resources. Yuri's specialities are mediation and communication, and outreach activities meant to shift local perspectives on existing resources.



Rangel grew up in Caribbean Costa Rica and dedicated his first career to carpentry before discovering his love for sea turtles. He left Costa Rica for a few years to live in France before returning to his homeland and his turtles. Rangel is our handyman and manages the day to day operations for our anti-poaching patrols and nesting activity monitoring.  



Danilo is a jack-of-all-trades. After leaving Gandoca and starting a career in law enforcement he discovered his love for ecotourism and studied with the Costa Rican Instituto Nacional de Aprendizaje (INA) and the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo (ICT) to become a certified nature guide. He worked in that capacity for several years before he went back to school once again to become a teacher. His goal was to teach in the most remote indigenous communities in Costa Rica. Similarly to Yuri, his goal is to improve the livelihood of rural communities by improving the quality of public education and by providing additional income through ecotourism. Danilo recently founded a social enterprise to organise ecotourism opportunities for the community of Gandoca.

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